I fell asleep on the cold deck of the ferry from Naples, my bag as a cushion for star-gazing at the endless vault above, the night furious with wind, and awoke at dawn to the sight of the looming volcanic island of Stromboli, its conical peak sputtering with ash and red flaming rock. (There are easier and faster means of transportation to these remote islands- namely, the ferry from much-closer Sicily). What a welcome! The Aeolian Islands had long conjured a mythical image in my head; after all, the ancient Greeks described this small string of islands as the home of the God of Wind. (And Homer described the voyage of Odysseus passing through these islands with the help of a favorable wind.) Craggy cliffs covered in vegetation, dotted with white-washed houses draped in brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea, the islands in this volcanic archipelago have a dramatic setting in the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Each island is different, with a distinct personality. And it's easy for visitors to island-hop, as smaller boats and hydrofoils connect between the islands a few times daily. Lipari is the most developed of them-- though hardly bustling-- with a charming town full of cafes and shops. Among the other sites are the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement, the long stretches of beaches, and white cliffs of pumice. On Stromboli, hike to the volcanic crater to see small eruptions of red lava at twilight. Tour the vineyards on the green island of Salina, or escape with the international jet-set to the gorgeous seclusion of Panarea.
Enjoy art from the renowned galleries of Charleston, SC, at the Second Annual Winter Art Show hosted by The Sanctuary. Together with the Charleston Fine Art Dealers' Association and Arts and Antiques magazine, the ultra-lux hotel is planning a spectacular weekend in celebration of Charleston's art on January 20-22. Escape to The Sanctuary—named "The Best New Resort Hotel" by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report—for a fabulous weekend package that includes two nights accommodations in their super-swanky rooms, a Low-Country welcome amenity, the cocktail reception, gala dinner, gallery tour of Charleston, art show admission and reception. Rates from $320 per person (double occupancy).
The Sanctuary, Official Site
The Sanctuary, Five Star Alliance
Where else can you ski the world's most majestic mountains in the morning and sun by the sea in the afternoon? Welcome to the Cote d'Azur of France, where the Chateau Eza has charmed guests at its cliffside location for centuries. A thousand feet above the Mediterranean Sea, the hotel sits within the charming rock walls of Eze, a thousand-year-old medieval village. The ten rooms and suites are enchanting and romantic; most feature private balconies overlooking the sea and are reached by stone passageways and ancient walkways. The award-winning restaurant is likewise breathtaking in its setting atop the cliffs. From now until the end of March, the Chateau is offering a "Sun and Snow Special," which includes three nights accommodations with continental breakfast, hot cocktails in the Lounge Bar for four, and morning helicopter rides to ski Isola 2000 in the Alps, with all lift tickets, ski equipment and lunch included. EUR 2,900 for four peeps.
Chateau Eza, Official Site
Chateau Eza, Five Star Alliance
Kick off those ugg boots and give your cold, scaly, winter feet a break at the Cheeca Lodge and Spa. After all, their motto is "Barefoot Elegance." The resort is set on 27 lush acres on Islamorada, the most perfect little island in the Florida Keys archipelago. Besides its proximity to the only tropical coral reef in the continental U.S., the island is plugged as the sport fishing capital of the world, with 600 species of fish in the surrounding turquoise waters. But this is not just a paradise for anglers and snorkelers; Cheeca's got a heavenly spa with lap pool, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, six lighted tennis courts, saltwater lagoon stocked full of fish, a myriad of water sports, brand new Deluxe Beachfront Bungalows with private balconies and gardens, and award-winning dining.
Hawaii's luxurious Princeville Resort—the gorgeous destination hotel on the north shore of the paradise of Kaua'i—touts their customized Hawaiian Sensory Room Experience, designed to "enhance smell, sight, touch, sound and taste to create a harmonious environment." This means your room is flooded with Maile Mist, an in-room aromatherapy program derived from the Maile vine indigenous to Hawaii, while a CD of traditional Hawaiian music floods your ears. Isn't it enough to be surrounded by some of the most exquisite natural scenery on the planet? Why have to recreate the Hawaii experience in the guestroom too? You might as well be at home in Tucson blasting Hawaiian tunes and slathering Maile lotion after a shower.
Take that, Amanresorts. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts announced yesterday a new luxury hotel opening in 2009. The Fairmont Turks and Caicos will include 150 condos, along with 150 luxurious guestrooms. Also planned: a championship golf course, tennis courts, marina, and the signature Willow Stream Spa. Looks like the Turks and Caicos is fast becoming where it's at in the Caribbean.
Those in the know have booked rooms well in advance of the March 1st opening of Amanyara in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is the newest of the Amanresorts, and the company's first luxury hotel in the Caribbean. Preliminary reports are more than enticing: 40 private villas and pavilions overlooking dreamy secluded beaches on a 2,025 hectare nature and wildlife reserve. Enjoy easy access to the reefs of the Northwest Point Marine Park just offshore for some of the best diving anywhere. Or soak up the sun on the pristine beach, grab a Hobie Cat for an afternoon sail, followed by a spa treatment in the privacy of your own villa. Excellent golf is available 30 minutes away at the Providenciales Golf Club, rated among the top ten in the Caribbean. It's just a short hop from Miami for spring break in Paradise...
Amanyara, Official Site
Amanyara, Five Star Alliance
January 3, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Named to Luxury Travel Magazine's "Top 10 New Caribbean Resorts," Carlisle Bay is the essence of chic. The owners of the award-winning One Aldwych in London have succeeded in bringing contemporary luxury to the Caribbean. Since the hotel's opening in 2003, enraptured guests have raved. A stunning beach. Enormous ocean-view suites. To-die-for restaurants. An outstanding Spa with state-of-the-art gym. A tantalizing array of water sports and boat excursions. And the only private screening room in the Caribbean (with movie showings nightly). How's that for the perfect winter getaway?
Carlisle Bay, Official Site
Carlisle Bay, Five Star Alliance
January 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Escape the arctic temperatures to one of Fiji's most sublime and sought-after hideaways. This exclusive island retreat-- its solitude and seclusion the ultimate in tropical bliss-- offers 16 secluded villas, overlooking white sand beaches and the Beqa lagoon. What's in store for privileged guests? The villas are outfitted in mahogany floors, thatched roofs, sea-grass ceilings, and Jacuzzi spa tubs, with spellbinding views. Private terraces open onto the dramatic clifftop, with infinity-edge plunge pools completing the perfect setting. After a sea-soaked day of superb diving or snorkeling—most of these dive sites on the resort's living barrier reef have never been dived before– enjoy a four-course meal featuring fantastic fresh seafood.
December 22, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is the site of some of Central America's last remaining lowland tropical rainforest. It is also the site of the 1,000 acre private nature preserve of the Lapa Rios resort. The rainforest resort is not only a model Ecotourism Project, it is also a fixture on CN Traveler's Gold List and winner of Andrew Harper's Hideaway Award. This isn't exactly roughing it. The main lodge and bungalows are built 350 feet above the sea, with breathtaking ocean vistas, the structures designed in complete harmony with the surrounding landscape. Enjoy rainforest wilderness adventures in Corcovado National Park, appreciate the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica, while indulging in gourmet dining, superb spa services, plush accommodations and a sparkling pool…